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From SZA to Taylor Swift, our Grammys predictions for the Big Four categories

L-R: Grammy 2024 nominees Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, SZA, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift (Getty)
L-R: Grammy 2024 nominees Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, SZA, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift (Getty)

The Grammys manage to annoy music fans most years, but last year’s ceremony caused a particularly big stink. This was mostly due to British pop star Harry Styles walking off with the night’s biggest prize, beating Adele and Beyoncé to Album of the Year in what should have been a rematch following the “Hello” artist’s controversial win over her fellow chart-topper in 2017.

This year is shaping up to be less provocative in many ways, with female artists dominating the Big Four categories (newly whittled down to eight instead of 10 nominees) including Song of the Year and Album of the Year. SZA leads the pack with nine nominations, while boygenius (who recently announced they would be going on hiatus at an acoustic show earlier in the week) and Victoria Monét follow close behind. Recording Academy darling Taylor Swift is also in the mix, and on the cusp of becoming the first-ever four-time Grammy winner for Album of the Year.

Ahead of the ceremony on Sunday (4 February), which will be hosted live from Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena, here’s a look at who will probably win – and who should win – the Big Four.

Song of the Year

Billie Eilish – “What Was I Made For?”

Dua Lipa – “Dance the Night”

Jon Batiste – “Butterfly”

Lana Del Rey – “A&W”

Miley Cyrus – “Flowers”

Olivia Rodrigo – “vampire”

SZA – “Kill Bill”

Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”

Should win: “Kill Bill” – SZA

Will win: “What Was I Made For?” – Billie Eilish

SZA’s ‘Kill Bill’ was one of the biggest songs of 2023 (2021 Invision)
SZA’s ‘Kill Bill’ was one of the biggest songs of 2023 (2021 Invision)

SZA’s languorous, hazy “Kill Bill” plays out like Nancy Sinatra’s revenge. The genre-flitting artist’s boom bap-inspired track, redolent of Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, is near shocking in its insouciance. And if Song of the Year is supposed to acknowledge lyrics and melody, SZA comes out on top in both. Her lyrics own up to her own messiness with deadpan humour: “Now I’m in the basement, planning home invasion/ Now you laying face-down, got me singing over a beat.” Her voice is mellifluous, caressing each word with a hypnotic croon. As the song title suggests, there’s a cinematic quality to the whole thing: you picture SZA back at home, shrugging off her fur coat and calmly washing the blood from her hands. That isolated vocal at the very end, as she sings “rather be in hell than alone”, speaks volumes.

That said, Eilish is already an awards season favourite thanks to her understated contribution to the Barbie soundtrack, a stark contrast to her previous Song of the Year winners, “bad guy” and “Happier Than Ever”. With another Oscar for Best Song on the horizon, Eilish seems destined for a clean sweep.

SZA, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo are all competing for top prizes at the 2024 Grammy Awards (Getty)
SZA, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo are all competing for top prizes at the 2024 Grammy Awards (Getty)

Best New Artist

Coco Jones

Gracie Abrams

Fred Again

Ice Spice

Jelly Roll

Noah Kahan

Victoria Monét

The War and Treaty

Should win: Victoria Monét

Will win: Noah Kahan

Noah Kahan is up for the Grammy for Best New Artist (Aysia Marotta)
Noah Kahan is up for the Grammy for Best New Artist (Aysia Marotta)

The Best New Artist category has baffled in previous years, often serving up nominee lists chock full of familiar names. This year, there are only a few truly fresh faces up for the prize, including breakthrough star Noah Kahan, who achieved viral song fame and a performance slot on Saturday Night Live thanks to his single “Stick Season”, and Nashville-born singer-songwriter Jelly Roll who, at 39, has pulled a reverse Post Malone and transitioned from hip-hop to country music. The War and Treaty, Coco Jones, and Gracie Abrams are all considered underdogs (despite Abrams’ pedigree as the daughter of Hollywood director JJ Abrams), and we can safely rule out the perennially over-hyped British producer DJ Fred Again.

Ice Spice might have been the favourite a year ago, but she’s struggled to come up with much of note since her Barbie song “Barbie World” with Nicki Minaj, itself eclipsed by soundtrack contributions from Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, and, erm, Ryan Gosling. Meanwhile, although Monét has been steadily releasing some of R&B’s best tracks for the better part of a decade, it was only last year that she put out her sublime debut album Jaguar II. She very well might be pipped to the Best New Artist award by Kahan, however, with “Stick Season” emerging easily as one of the biggest singles of the past 12 months.

Victoria Monet is up for Best New Artist (AP)
Victoria Monet is up for Best New Artist (AP)

Record of the Year

Billie Eilish – “What Was I Made For?”

boygenius – “Not Strong Enough”

Jon Batiste – “Worship”

Miley Cyrus – “Flowers”

Olivia Rodrigo – “Vampire”

SZA – “Kill Bill”

Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”

Victoria Monét – “On My Mama”

Should win: “Not Strong Enough” – boygenius

Will win: “Anti-Hero” – Taylor Swift

boygenius – Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker – are competing with Taylor Swift for Record of the Year (2024 Invision)
boygenius – Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker – are competing with Taylor Swift for Record of the Year (2024 Invision)

Record of the Year is supposed to celebrate the performance and production achievements of its nominees, but most people (seemingly the voters, too) can’t discern any meaningful difference between this category and Song of the Year. If we’re sticking to those qualifiers, though, then boygenius deserve the trophy for “Not Strong Enough”, the triumphant country-pop anthem off their debut album, The Record.

The track opens on stark acoustic guitar strumming, with synths blinking slowly out of the gloom like a lighthouse beam. From there, it’s a gorgeous build to the layered harmonies of the refrain – “Always an angel, never a god” – and the climax of the final chorus. A win for boygenius would also be a rare, historic triumph for female producers at the Grammys, with the trio comprising Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus – joined at the helm by Australian producer/engineer Catherine Marks.

It is doubtful, however, that Swift will go home without the prize for her widely hailed, conversation-starting single “Anti-Hero”, produced with long-time collaborator and Grammys favourite, Jack Antonoff. The shimmering synth-pop track, which drills into the mechanics of our deepest insecurities, is performed by Swift at the height of her powers – breezy, confident and winkingly self-aware.

Taylor Swift in ‘Anti-Hero’ (Taylor Swift/ YouTube)
Taylor Swift in ‘Anti-Hero’ (Taylor Swift/ YouTube)

Album of the Year

boygenius – The Record

Janelle Monáe – The Age of Pleasure

Jon Batiste – World Music Radio

Lana Del Rey – Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation

Olivia Rodrigo – GUTS

SZA – SOS

Taylor Swift – Midnights

Should win: SZA – SOS

Will win: Taylor Swift – Midnights

Taylor Swift in promo artwork for her album, ‘Midnights’ (Beth Garrabrant)
Taylor Swift in promo artwork for her album, ‘Midnights’ (Beth Garrabrant)

It’s hard to imagine there will be much bad feeling no matter who wins this category – that is unless Jon Batiste, the only male nominee out of eight contenders, takes it home. SZA, Del Rey, and Monáe’s works are arguably the most immersive – all three of their albums invite listeners to dive in and soak up their respective explorations of sexuality, heartache, euphoria, and vengeance.

Rodrigo, who already has three statuettes to her name, has a brilliant offering in the form of GUTS – her punchy second album – but it arguably lacks the finesse or artistry of her peers. boygenius might possibly be considered a touch too “alternative” for the famously populist Recording Academy, bringing us inevitably to Swift and her record-breaking 10th studio album Midnights. It’s a great LP, adored by critics and fans alike.

This is also, indisputably, Swift’s year – next week, her appearance at the Super Bowl to support boyfriend Travis Kelce will likely generate more interest than the game itself, while her commercial successes of the past 12 months should be more than enough to impress voters. Besides, awarding Swift that latest record-breaker – more Album of the Year wins than any other artist – would make for the kind of TV gold (read, ratings) the Grammys are desperate for.